Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Failure is the Spice of Life

As luck would have it my search for a blogging topic was jump started by this article I found through the wonderful RPG Blogger's Network, of which I am a junior grade member.

I'll wait while you go and read it. Go ahead, it's short.

I really got kind of excited trying to think of a creative answer to his post. His campaign world just got a lot more complicated. While complication does not always directly correlate to excitement, in this case, and in a lot of cases, it can. I began to realize that this is not the only situation where failure was a good thing...

Star Wars

While the original series is full of triumphs for the PC's, it also has it's failures. Half of The Empire Strikes back, my personal favorite, is a direct consequence of Han Solo failing his Mechanics roll and stranding the Millennium Falcon in normal space. The heroes still win in the end.
The biggest failure, however, the one that makes the series possible, is Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side and betrayal of the Jedi.

On the surface, this is not a good example for a role playing hook, but consider the string of failures, starting from Episode I, that I can think of right now:
- Obi-Wan and Qui Gonn fail to defeat the droids and get to the bridge, forcing the trade federation to sign a treaty and forestalling the war.
- Yoda failed in his battle against the Emperor.
- Leia failed to deliver the Death Star plans to Obi-Wan.
- Luke failed his rescue of Han and Leia, and loses a hand.
- The rebels fail in their assault of the shield bunker, and are only saved by the introduction of several key NPC's.

I am only highlighting failures that could arise in a similar situation in a role playing game. Did your players fail an encounter that was a lynch pin of the storyline? Perhaps they will need to take the story in a different direction.

Lord of the Rings

Gandalf's failure to recognize the ring for what it is does not really apply to this discussion, nor does Isildur's failure to destroy the ring waaay before the events of the 3rd age that we are familiar with begin.

The largest failure is the encounter where Boromir dies. Admittedly the sheer number of orcs makes me think it is above their level a bit, but regardless it derailed the story somewhat, and split the fellowship. This is the kind of consequence that can destroy a party. The group most likely to be PC's (thanks Shamus!) goes on an entirely different quest to rescue their friends captured in the attack. A perfect resolution for a failed encounter.

The other group fails their skill challenge in traveling through the wilderness and gets captured, and has to succeed in a more difficult skill challenge where they lose one of their PC's. Assuming Gollum is a PC. He is actually representative of a few PC's I have seen...

To avoid this post becoming too long to read I'll stop the movie examples there. Failure is a great opportunity to change the tone of the game, and to bring in an element that you might feel is missing in your games. In our own game which is well documented here, failure could have drastically changed the direction of the game at several key times:
- The first adventure was a success with the defeat of the Necromancer. Had he escaped, the party would have one more powerful enemy in their Rogues Gallery.
- Our fight with the necrotic essence in the strange catacombs under the Giant's Temple could have unleashed a dark presence on the region, had we failed, or exacerbated the problem.
- Our most recent adventure could have ended with a war.

What about you? Any failures that ended up becoming the beginning of a new adventure?


Saturday, January 24, 2009

1/24 Actual Play: Scooby Doo

Bit of a change this session:

Jesse DMed and did not play much of Halma, as will be seen in the write up.
Chelsea playing Ana the Half Elf Cleric
Colin playing Lucan the Elf Fighter
Dan playing Arlarond the Human Wizard
Josh playing Kithieren the Eladrin Swordmage
Jay playing Therryk the Dragonborn Paladin

We picked up right where we left off last session. The party had just defeated the Eladrin in combat and we moved to check for survivors. We were able to subdue 5 of them, and 2 died. The mage who got a thrown axe to the head and the rogue who burned to death both did not make it. Three keep guards were killed as well. Kerlos was obviously disturbed, but resumed his conversation with Lord Markelhay and ordered his guards to keep this quiet for now. The dwarven steward of the keep and one trusted guard moved the fallen out of sight for now and kept watch on the upper level.

Lucan arranged a barricade of the top floor. The talk of goblins in the area had him a bit paranoid, and he clued the rest of the group in on what he was told just prior to the fight. The goblin attack would also make a good scapegoat for the three dead guards. Arlarond went back home to let his master know what happened, and found out that several goblins had attacked the tower, as well. It was clear now that something else was going on besides regular demihuman aggression. Halma suggested that perhaps the goblins were getting in through some old smuggling tunnels in the bluffs.

After a group meeting it was decided to meet back at the keep in the morning to be present for the interrogation of the surviving Eladrin. Therryk returned to his quarters in the temple of Erathis. Ana stayed in the keep. Halma returned to his rented room at the Lucky Gnome. Arlarond went to his tower for the night. Lucan, however, was feeling the effects of the recent goblin attacks. He decided to wander the streets for a few hours and keep an eye out for suspicious things.
After it got dark, he found something suspicious. He saw a figure trying to hide in the bushes. He called out and it tried to flee. He easily caught up to the cloaked figure, and discovered it was a young human woman. She claimed she was in the bushes looking for a place to pee. Lucan believed her, but still took her in, since she was out late and that was suspicious and all. He arrived at the prison and was not happy to see that Constable Blackshield was the one on duty that night. He locked her in a cell and took the keys with him when he left.

The next morning we all met at the keep. All except Halma. He left us a note. Something came up and he would be in Hammerfast for at least a few weeks. We descended a few floors into the dungeon into a part of the keep seemingly dating from the war. We glimpsed a torture chamber, and had to be let through a double set of curtains to get to the Eladrin part of the prison. Kerlos and Lord Markelhay had reached an agreement the previous evening. Kerlos told his men that they had the option of returning to his service or leaving now and going home. Three of them decided to stay here under Kerlos. One remained silent and refused to answer. The last one just wanted to be free. He didn't want to return home or to stay as a vassal of Kerlos. He was granted his freedom.

Arlarond spoke to this Eladrin, whose name was Kithieren, and proposed that he might enjoy adventuring with us. He had no interest at first, but after several minutes of discussion capped off with a sparring match with Therryk he decided to remain with us for a share of the treasure.
Arlarond has a ritual he thinks will help us find the goblins. We go the the map room and he spends several minutes summoning a ghostly hand. The hand points to a spot in the back of the keep near the wall. We search the area, but only find the broken bones and equipment of the defeated goblin invaders. We determine that the ritual failed.

Our next bright idea is to ask the girl that Lucan found the night before. Ana recognized her as a small time entertainer who always seems to be living beyond her means. It doesn't take much to convince her to help us, and she gives us the entrance to a smugglers cave readily. We leave her locked up while we go and investigate.
The old warehouse near the falls does indeed hold a secret, a false wall that leads to some caves under the city. Arlarond sends the key back with a messenger, and we delve under the city, hoping to find some sign of the goblins. We find none.
The path we chose leads us underneath the upper quays and emerges outside the city walls, in an orchard to the north east. We trek back into the city to try the other tunnel we found. It is another fruitless search, this time coming to a dead end.

We decide to try the old catacombs under the city. Therryk knew of them from attending funeral rites for patrons of his church. No goblins were found there either.

Frustrated, after almost an entire day searching, we decide to let Arlarond try the ritual again. This time he asks and the hand points to an abandoned keep about an hour's walk north of town.

Kithieren thinks that our idea of adventuring is tame and boring. As the day comes to a close we might be inclined to believe him. We approach the keep from the west. The sun is setting behind our heads when we finally see signs of goblins. There are some figures moving on the towers of the keep.

As we get closer we realize that this is not just an abandoned keep, it is a ruined keep. The upper floor has fallen into the ground floor, leaving it inaccessible. Goblins are everywhere on the top of this keep, which is now only about 5 feet off of the ground. The towers are still standing, but that is about all. We get as close as we can get under cover of an overgrown orchard, and then rush the building:

The tree line is to the left, with the goblins all massed on the roof of the building to the right. The square is a tower, 30 feet high. Kithieren is the one in front, he just ran to the corner there. Therryk was only able to get partway across in the surprise round. The rest of the PC's have yet to act:
- Kithieren shows off his fey heritage by teleporting to the top of the tower and attacking the goblins there.
- Lucan uses his trident to vault himself up onto the crumbling structure. He is such a badass.
- Arlarond shows off his shiny new spell and fireballs the sleeping goblins. They are now awake and crispy on one side.
- Angry goblins swarm Lucan, surrounding him almost completely. He is delighted, since now he can use *his* brand new daily, one that pokes all the adjacent enemies with his trident.
- Ana keeps to the rear, healing and calling her god's favor down on the increasingly overextended heroes
- Therryk misses pretty much entirely, with both encounter powers and one daily, plus most at-wills. He is a non issue this fight.
- Gnolls appear behind the goblins from their concealment in the rubble. Two gnolls with bows begin shooting arrows at the closest members of the party, who also happen to be the surrounded members of the party, Lucan and Kithieren.
- Kithieren displays his teleportation and elemental mastery by pretty much going where he pleases and attacking multiple enemies.
- One such attack vaporized a goblin and damaged several others, allowing him to teleport to a more advantageous position.
- Ana consecrated a patch of ground and began moving it around the battlefield. Enemies that stayed too long began to get hurt, and hurt allies recovered their strength.
- Arlarond put a sheet of ice on the tower and the stairs, causing two goblins to fall to their deaths when they lost their footing.
- We began to turn the tide, despite Lucan falling and Kithieren becoming close to falling himself. Arlarond's impressive damage and Lucan's deadly aura made it an inevitable win for us.

- Blue rings are Lucan's mark, Orange is Kithieren's, and Pink would be Therryk's, if he had any. Red are bloodied.
- The last goblin bolted, and Lucan and Therryk chased him down. The two gnolls in the tower shooting arrows kept it up, but Arlarond conjured his flaming sphere in the room, and Ana moved her consecrated ground to cover the same area, and the arrows soon stopped.

The only gnolls to survive were the last two. We tied them up and set up camp to rest for the night. During the night one of them woke up and began howling and yelping, waking us up. He was stubborn, but we were able to reach an agreement. He told us all we wanted to know, and we let him go. He was upset with us for killing their goblin slaves. They had come here and sent their slaves into the city to steal some kind of book of prophecy. We discovered that his tribe was working with other tribes who call the Wichlight Fens their home. They made up something called the legion. We went back to sleep, anticipating a trip to the Fens first thing in the morning.


It is rougher than I thought to do these as a player, coming from a few sessions as a DM. I didn't take the notes I should have...but I got pictures?

So these little notes might be shorter, since I don't have DMing feelings to share. I was disappointed in my character though. Utter fail as a *defender*. He would be a sub-par striker if he could hit with any sort of regularity. I do blame the dice. By the numbers, I should be more effective.

Having seen a swordmage in play for the first time, I am pretty impressed. Very high magic flavor and an effective suite of powers. Like, the opposite of a paladin. Okay, enough sour grapes, I promise. Eladrin seem to be destined to be swordmages, it seemed like Josh had a good time, too. Hope he is able to keep playing with us.

With no DMing in the near future for me, I have been thinking a lot about other aspects of roleplaying. Perhaps if I feel like any of those thoughts are in any way profound I'll post one or two. Perhaps.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1/17 Actual Play: Lots of answers, lots of questions. Kinda like Lost.

Full house for this session:

Jay: the zombified (due to his DMPC status) Therryk, a Dragonborn Paladin/Warlord
Chelsea: Ana, the Half Elf Cleric of the Platinum God, and bastard daughter of Lord Markelhay
Jesse: Halma the Human Rogue and aged streetrat of Fallcrest
Colin: Lucan the Elven Fighter and self exiled former warrior for the proud elven tribes
Dan: Arlarond, Human Wizard with a back story ripe for exploitation by the DM

We picked things up right where we left off, after a short recap of recent events. The party, thinking to explore the now abandoned mine, approached the only structure there. When they get near it, an Eladrin steps through the Feywild and appears directly in front of them.

He introduces himself declares his intent to kill the party for what they have seen and done. Some back and forth diffuses the immediate tension, but whether or not killing will happen is far from certain. His associates open the door and saunter out of the cabin, and the party now faces 8 well armed and competent Eladrin warriors.

The leader of the Eladrin, who gives his name later as Kerlos, is very calm about informing the party that this quarry was theirs, and that they had no problem allowing the people of Fallcrest to use it for now. Eventually they would come and take what they wanted or needed from them. He agrees to go with the party to Fallcrest to discuss a possible non-violent end to this confrontation.

During the journey several conversations are had:
- Kerlos is not afraid to let the party know some small details about him and his people, as he does not fear them. His people have recently returned from the Feywild after a long absence, and were quarrying material to build fortifications for their city.
- He indicates that in the past his people had been in a conflict with the people of Fallcrest. Though many races make up the population of the city, he and his people refer to them as the Humans.
- In a conversation with an Eladrin wizard, Arlarond is mistaken for his master, indicating that the Eladrin know of him from the previous conflict.
- Kerlos' people aren't too keen on him doing this. They would like to just kill the party and get on with it.

The party makes it to the plains outside Fallcrest after a couple of day's travel and decided to enter the city in the morning. They think that Lord Markelhay might be inclined to harm or discredit the Eladrin, and that bringing them in with a fanfare, escorted by the Heroes of Fallcrest, might bring them some measure of protection.

Three things happen before they get back to Fallcrest:
- Halma sneaks into the city to spread the word that the heroes are returning. He goes straight to the docks and finds the crew of their ship. They are more than willing to help, and split up to cover more ground. He then goes to the Half-moon trading house, the clients that the Guild was recovering the goods for, and is able to determine that their belongings were returned.
- Arlarond is visited by his master and a mysterious outsider. A traveling circle appeared outside the camp shortly after dawn, and Nimozaran the Green and another robed figure step through. They pull Arlarond aside and speak with him. The party doesn't overhear anything, but they do witness the other man pulling his hood back. It is a warforged, with the holy symbol of Ioun emblazoned on his chest. Arlarond shares some of his new knowledge with the party
- While Arlarond is talking with his master, Ana sneaks away. She is conflicted and wants to give her father a heads up. She makes it into town, and is able to speak with her father.

Lord Markelhay is still hosting the Elven Lords that arrived during the Festival. He tells Ana that they have been telling her about the Eladrin returning, too, and that her report is enough to convince him of it's truth. He was certain that the Eladrin had 'sunk below the swamp', but where magic is concerned anything is possible. Ana tells him that the party believes that all the nasties that they have been fighting recently could all be part of a rift that is somewhere in the Wichlight Fens. She thinks that he should at least consider talking with these Eladrin, as Fallcrest can use all the help it can muster if there is another threat on the horizon. The Drow, the Undead cult, these marauding demihumans, and now Eladrin might be too much for Fallcrest to deal with on it's own. He agrees to speak with their leader.

She catches up with the party as they are traveling to the gates of Fallcrest and learns what the rest of the party learned from Arlarond. There is no rift.

At some point more than 30 years ago, but not much, the city of Fallcrest and an Eladrin settlement began fighting. The Eladrin claim that this conflict was because they are entitled to the Nentir Vale. The fighting escalated until the point where some cataclysm happened. The Eladrin completed some ritual designed to win them the war. In response, the wizards of the tower prepared a ritual to rob the Eladrin of their power. As Fey creatures they naturally chose a place to live that was beautiful and close to the Feywild. Nimozaran the Green earned his title be performing a ritual that destroyed the land around the Eladrin city, and shortly after that they disappeared.

Arlarond thinks, as do many who know of this war, that the Eladrin created the plague. His master stressed that there is no evidence of this. The plague is entirely natural, as far as he can tell. Despite their new suspicion they party decides to 'give peace a chance'. The Heroes of Fallcrest are greeted with a roaring crowd. The Lord has managed to get ceremonial guards onto the palisade, and constables keep the road clear enough for the party to make their way to the makeshift stage. The Elven lords are there, as is Lord Markelhay. Nimozaran is absent. Ana speaks first, and welcomes the Eladrin emissaries to their city. Lord Markelhay follows her, and genuinely seems to support the idea of working with the Eladrin. He declares the Fall Festival should continue, and the crowd roars as the whole group of them, Heroes, Eladrin, Elves, and dignitaries, make their way to the Moonstone Keep.

Several party members detect what they feel are unsettling looks and conspiratorial glances between members of Kerlos' retinue. When the whole group gets to the keep, Lord Markelhay and Kerlos begin their talks informally, in his study, and the other groups are led to separate sitting rooms.

Lucan takes the opportunity to speak with the Elf Lords. He had been avoiding them. It is clear that they hold him no ill will, and they begin to speak about recent goblin activities. He tells them of the goblins they have run into, and he finds out that just last night a group of Goblins came over the outer wall and into the courtyard of the Moonstone Keep. These goblins, like the ones Lucan had fought with the party, all had obliterated their ritual scars with ugly brands on the palms of their hands.

His conversation is interrupted by the sound of shattering wood. The Eladrin have made their move. Halma is just getting back from the kitchen, having gone to grab some snacks for the party:
- The upper floor of the Moonstone Keep is not a place for big, epic, open battles. It became a dirty, scary slaughter.
- The dissatisfied Eladrin troops began their assault by kicking in the guard room door outside of Lord Markelhay's study. This attracted the attention of the Elves, who joined in the fight.
- Kerlos was the first one there, and he shouted at them to stop. They did not listen.
- Lucan and Arlarond made up the choke points at the ends of the two halls where the fighting occurred. Arlarond was next to Kerlos, but the sneak on the other side was still able to get some cuts in on him.
- Lucan did a great job of keeping the Eladrin bottled in on his end, despite the teleportation of the Eladrin. By the end of the fight all of them had used their power, yet none got away past Lucan.
- Halma arrived with the food, and did the only natural thing. He flung the pitcher of cheap wine 30 feet down the hall and struck the other rogue with it, drenching her.
- The first round of actual combat was clearly in the party's favor. The Eladrin Warlord died. None of the good guys were seriously hurt.
- The second round all hell broke loose. The two wizards on the other side got off their dailies, and spent action points to shoot off their encounter powers.
- The two rangers did the same, and dropped Lucan and Halma into negatives.
- Ana and Therryk finally made it to the fight after that, Ana just in time to heal her fallen comrades, and Therryk to hurl his axe at the rogue, and then charge her, lighting the cheap liquor on fire with his enchanted axe.
- The focus fire on the rogue killed her before she was able to go again.
- After being on full defense for two rounds, Kerlos finally acted, and his action was to attack the other Eladrin. Two rounds of shouting at them to stop did nothing, so he felt compelled to act.
- Arlarond conjured his fiery orb, and because of the size of the room it shut most of the attempts at escape by the Eladrin down. Unfortunately, it also dropped the just-healed Halma back into negatives.
- The Eladrin were now on the defensive, but the fight was still about even, with 5 of them to the 5 party members and Kerlos. Ana's healing was amped up considerably because of her daily, and both defenders were now in play.
- The only melee fighter left on the other side dropped, and even though the two wizards and two rangers put up a fight, it only took another round or two to finish them off.

We stopped after searching the bodies and recovering more phat lewt. Jesse wanted to pick up right away, and I'm a little nervous...


My last DMing for awhile. I was reasonably proud of how it turned out. I don't know why it is so hard for me to say, but I have been fibbing about something for awhile now, and it's bugging me, so here it is:

I don't prep for games.

Of course, I sat down at the beginning and wrote out a one page outline, and after I had decided on the 3 story encounters I put together 4 more *random* encounters. I knew what would happen if the party chose to follow the hooks. I knew what I would do if they didn't.

The rest of it was me, standing in the shower, driving to work, falling asleep in church, whenever, just thinking about what I had laid out, and why.

So, when the party decided to talk rather than kill, they were not destroying any sort of carefully planned anything. I had not planned anything. I knew what I knew (Eladrin had a war with Fallcrest!) . I had 5 NPC character sheets and that was all. I ad-libbed everything. I made some things up.

Some of the stuff I had thought about came in handy. I had thought that if the party needed some exposition regarding the whole mission to the quarry, Nimozoran should be the one to do it, in a mysterious, comes at night and goes with a teleportation ritual sort of way. All this stuff was sort of floating in my head, and when it all came out . . . it came out better than I thought it would. I am not trying to convince anyone that this is Shakespeare, just that I was entertained, and hopefully so were my friends, and . . . that’s all?

On to the other stuff. Running NPC's is kind of a pain. Their stat blocks are huge. This is an inverse relationship to their HP, which are small. I never marked with either NPC Fighter. The Rangers only quarried towards the end of the fight. The wizards never used their wands.
In a big field, 1 on 1, the party wins hands down. With superior numbers, the party can still win . . . so far. At higher levels this might change. The thing is, NPC's have no real distinction between Daily and Encounter abilities. They only get to fight once. They might as well (and I hate this phrase) 'go nova' and use daily, action point, and encounter. After that they are just bags of HP. Not very big bags.

My one regret with this storyline is the strain that puts on Eladrin player characters. Were anyone to die and want to try one out, I have just created a good roleplaying reason for everyone to hate them. I don't really want to do that to anyone's character. It might be a non-issue.
I'm out, return next week for more pictures and better combat notes! Hopefully Therryk is cured of his Zombie state! Hurrah!


Monday, January 12, 2009

1/12 Actual Play: Kill, Kill, Kill

We were one short this session, but Colin played Ana along with Lucan, so we still had 5 characters:

Jay, playing Therryk the Dragonborn Paladin and DMing
Dan, playing Arlarond the Human Wizard
Jesse, playing Halma the Human Rogue
Colin, playing Lucan the Elven Fighter and Ana the Half Elven Cleric

As I mentioned before, the fight was barely won by the PC's and they found a good place to camp for the night. Ana was feeling the pain of repeated focused attacks by the Ettercaps, and was a little woozy when Arlarond's Eyes of Alarm began repeating

"Warning. Warning. Warning. Warning. Warning. Warning. Warning. Warning. Warning...."

Waking to the alarm, the four heard the creak of a wagon approaching. The dim glow of a lantern appeared and the party hid, preparing to spring an ambush.

They were taken aback when they recognized their horse. . .pulling their wagon. Lucan stepped from the shadows, and greeted the driver. It was the captain of their hired ship from earlier. He had heard that the party left with a different crew, and had his ship moved down the falls so that he could take over the duty of ferrying them down the river. He spied the small boat tied up at the bank and sent it back to Fallcrest.

While the party appreciated the gesture, they did not feel that they needed the help. . .at least right now. Lucan volunteered to escort the captain back, and the party all crawled back in their bedrolls.

A few hours later, with Therryk on watch, the three sleeping party members were shaken awake. It was just before dawn, and Therryk had heard something sneaking up from the Southeast. The party had just begun to explore what it might be, when two beefy goblins with battleaxes stumbled into the clearing.
- This fight was a wizard's dream. 2 melee goblins, 2 sharpshooters, 1 hexer, and 12 minions.
- The sharpshooters attempted to stay at range where they had better skill at hitting the party, but Halma closed with them. He enjoys shutting down the ranged element, and did a super job this fight.
- Arlarond's staff rained flame down, missing his allies but scorching all of the goblins within sight of him. Most of the minions dropped dead.
- Lucan and Therryk had the goblins with axes locked down, until both of them maneuvered to flank Therryk and hacked him down, unconscious (2 crits!)
- Ana spent much of her time healing us back up, as the goblins whittled us down.
- The hexer maintained a large area of the battlefield with a thick cloud that hampered melee combat. Unfortunately, with the battle the way it was, most of the damage was being done in other ways.
- Still untouched, the hexer attempted to retreat after the last of the minions and axe wielding goblins dropped. Halma had kept the sharpshooters mostly out of it, and with the goblin's front lines gone, the party quickly overwhelmed and slaughtered them.

More loot was found, and the party decided that the night was over, so they may as well adventure on. Lucan returned shortly after the party struck camp, and they resumed following the wagon tracks East.

After a couple more hours of walking, the party saw a ruin in the distance, and snuck up on a collapsed settlement. Too small to be self sustaining, the stone ruin was most likely an outpost or monastery of some kind. Anymore it was swallowed up by the forest, with thick undergrowth coming right up to the edges of the buildings. The wagon tracks entered the ruin, and they found the empty wagon inside an old building.

Halma did some initial sneaking, and saw that there were a few humanoids lounged in a nearby building. The largest one in the settlement, at some point a large statue or obelisk had collapsed, taking out the majority of the West wall. The roofs of all of these buildings had been destroyed, meaning that the only shelter was to be had in this two story building, as the second story floor protected the lower level from the elements.

Halma climbed onto the second floor and hid, while Ana attempted to parley with them. Hostile from the beginning, the ruffians became more dangerous when it appeared that one of the dragonborn recognized her. All attempts at diplomacy collapsed and cowboy diplomacy ensued.
- 2 Dragonborn Soldiers and 3 Dwarven Bolters faced the party.
- The Soldiers were able to pin the party between a wall and the rubble of the collapsed wall for a few rounds, and the dwarves were able to hit very well.
- Halma dropped down behind one of the soldiers and Lucan charged in. Lucan is very good at moving enemies around and the Soldiers were now the ones pinned in the corner of the room by Lucan, Halma, and the terrain.
- Once Therryk was able to get in on the fight, Halma was able to disengage to attack the dwarves. They had scattered due to an earlier cold attack from Arlarond.
- It was down to two of the dwarves hiding in a storage room, and Arlarond hit them with a less powerful blast of ice, but this one knocked a dwarf down and coated the area in ice. That was the end for them, and the encounter ended.

Searching the storage room, the party found trade goods consistent with what they were looking for. They found some magic items and art objects on the bandits. Halma tied up two of them, a dragonborn and a dwarf, and when he attempted to move them into the rubble something caught his eye. A long overlooked vault that must have been inside the statue. He pried the lid off, and the chest inside held a king's ransom in residuum.

It was decided to send an animal messenger to the crew of their ship and have them bring the wagon. With the wagon loaded with goods and two groggy criminals, the party settled down in the best defensible position around, the bandit hideout they had just cleared out.

The wagon made it's way back to the boat, and the party settled down to wait and relax. Halma, from his position on the second floor, had only a second to warn the party of the approaching orcs before they burst into the ruin. Leading the charge was an 800 lb boar:
- Unfortunately, due to the layout of the party at the time, the boar was able to charge in and attack Ana and Arlarond, the two squishiest members of the party.
- Following them were two orcs with axes, and two more with a brace of handaxes at their waist.
- The whole fight was a condensed mess in the building, with almost all participants crowding in right around the boar, either to hit it, or on the orcs side, to hit the party that had come to hit the boar.
- Without room to charge and gore, it's preferred maneuver, the boar had to shuffle back 5 feet at a time, and charge. He was able to do this only once before the concentrated fire took him down.
- The big orcs were the real threat anyways, and once they were bloodied their battle rage began to inflict some serious damage on the party.
- Once again Halma moved to intercept the ranged element, only to discover that they were just as effective, if not more so, while in melee. Luckily the rest of the party joined him a round or so after they entered melee combat with him
- Another victory for the party, and more gear for them to use.

At this point they were pretty badly beaten, and when the empty wagon returned they elected to remain there over night to nurse their wounds and prepare for more battle. They were surprisingly unmolested all night, and with Ana's knowledge of where to go, they intercepted an old road that wound through the quarries in the area.

It was a beautiful fall day, the party was riding in the back of their wagon, low hills all around, and then something had to go and ruin it all. Of course.

The old road was rounding a bend to the left, and appeared to end in a large quarry with a run down shack. Something was out of place, the party noticed immediately. In the smaller quarries that the party had already passed, nature had reclaimed them to some degree. While the square blocky cuts made to remove stone cannot be erased so quickly, the vegetation had returned in all other cases.

The bare stone was their only warning, as the wagon pierced the illusory bubble protecting the quarry and the party was witness to chaos. A teleportation circle near the wagon was flocked to by a host of people. At first the party could easily mistake them for elves and halflings, but they didn't look quite right. It was Eladrin and Gnomes, working together at the quarry.

With the advance notice that the party was arriving, the squatters at the quarry had made preparations. A handful of Gnomes rushed towards the party, led by two that had rods. As they entered the gravelly region near the road, they snapped the rods in two, and a large creature made of gravel and stone rose almost immediately from the rubble. Riding on his shoulders were the two gnomes, and they controlled him with the rods that were sticking from his body. The rest of the gnomes disappeared in a glamour created by a gnomish wizard, and the golem rushed the party:
- The party had half a mind to talk their way out of combat, but it was clear they would not be allowed the chance.
- It was obvious to everyone that the golem was the real threat, and everyone focused on him. . .except for Halma, who made his way to the other side of the battlefield to combat the wizard and the three other gnomes that had disappeared.
- The golem got to go twice a round, on account of him having two controllers, and he proved his deadliness by unleashing an avalanche on the party, leaving the area covered in debris and badly hurting those caught in the area.
- The other gnomes were much less powerful than the party, and served mostly as a distraction. Upon breaking their hide to attack, they were opened up to much killing by Halma
- It took only a few rounds to bloody the golem, which was signalled by a blow from Lucan killing the gnome nearest him.
- The golem managed to put some serious hurt on the party before it died, bet even then, it was almost to single digit hit points before anyone found out it had reach. They had swarmed it so quickly.
- Arlarond was the one to do the deed, blasting the second gnome from his perch on the shoulder of the gnome with a magic missile.

We stopped there, as any further exploration of the quarry was likely to initiate another encounter...

So, as predicted by my, I was a bit rusty. I didn't have much creative drive this time at all, and so to me it felt like a series of combats. No real roleplay. In fact, it was so combat heavy we blew through 4 encounters. That is double what I was expecting.

With Chelsea gone, I thought to bring the wagon along. Ana could remain in the wagon while the party did their thing and no oddity would have to occur next week to bring her back to the party. Colin had just planned on playing her as well, so the arrival of the wagon was a bit awkward.

My idea with this sandbox is to have encounters related to the adventure, and encounters that I would put in when I felt they would be. . .entertaining. Or relevant. They are random encounters without the random aspect that I dislike. At this point the party has fought all of the random encounters, and there is only one story encounter remaining. Amazing what skipping all roleplaying will do for the encounters per session ratio. We were at something like 2:1, I'd guess. so four is. . .out there.

Hopefully next week, with the resolution to two 'quests' to get through and a major battle, we will get some good combat and roleplay both, and everyone will have fun.

The Gravel Golem was an invention of mine for this combat. I had toyed with the idea of a de-leveled bulette, but the de-leveling left it weak. I attempted to build a bulette with the creature creation rules in the DMG but didn't really like it. I present the gravel golem to you, warts and all:

Gravel Golem Level 6 Elite Brute
Large Fey Animate XP 500
Initiative +5 Senses Perception +6
HP 172; Bloodied 86
AC 19; Fortitude 21, Reflex 17, Will 18
Immune Disease, Poison
Saving Throws +2
Speed 6
Action Points 1
M Swat (Standard; at-will)
Reach 2
Target: One creature
+9 vs AC 1d6+4 damage and push 1 square
Bloodied damage: 1d10+4
R Boulder (Standard; at-will)
Ranged 5 Burst 1
Target: Each creature in burst
+7 vs Ref 1d6+4 damage
Bloodied damage: 1d10+4
c Avalanche (Standard; recharge 6)
Close blast 3
Target: Each creature in blast
+7 vs Reflex 3d6+4 damage, 1/2 damage on a miss
Bloodied damage: 3d8+4, 1/2 damage on a miss
Effect: The area is difficult terrain for the rest of the encounter
Double Actions
A Gravel Golem rolls initiative twice, gets two turns during a round, and has a full set of actions (standard, move, minor) on each turn. Each set of actions corresponds to a different Gnome. The Golem's ability to take immediate actions refreshes on each of it's turns.
Bloodied Fury
A Gnome is killed when the Gravel Golem is bloodied and the Golem only has one turn each round for the remainder of the encounter. In addition, each of the Golem's attacks now do the bloodied damage.
Alignment Unaligned Languages
Str 20 (+8) Dex 14 (+5) Wis 16 (+6)
Con 16 (+6) Int 3 (-1) Cha 7 (+1)

I really liked how he performed, very brutish. He did not hit a whole lot and was a pretty big and easy target in turn. The one alteration I made while running it. . .and regretted it. . .was that I did not take away his second action once he was bloodied. I felt that they had bloodied him so fast, that he would not be worth his status as an Elite if I did that. Colin asked about it once the session was over, and it would have been a cool thing had I done it. Thinking about this later, giving him tremorsense should have been obvious. Starting him further from the party would be a good idea, too, allowing him to use more than just his basic melee attack.

Next week we finish my adventure and hit 5th level. The rest of the session will be character creation for a Star Trek one shot that Dan wants to run. We are planning on using the FATE system, which I have not used before. Should be interesting.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Uh, wow. I have not posted in almost a month.

This is mostly because we have only played once since my last post, a 16th level one shot run by Dan. It was a lot of good fun, I got to play the Dwarven Ranger I have been itching to play. Honestly it is just the dual wielding dwarf that pushes my buttons, whether it is a fighter or a ranger. . .something about using two uberweapons at a time makes me happy. Can't imagine why. Though my first ever character was a dual wielder. I have always liked the idea of it, and in 4e there is a lot more chance to make it viable. The parrying dagger combined with two weapon defense is just as good as a shield, and a lot cooler for me to imagine. What a nerd.

I didn't blog about the one shot because with the holidays eating up increasing portions of my free time and work and trying the warcraft free trial . . .blogging took a back seat. So did most things D&D, really.

I run again in two days. Luckily I have all my prep done. I have started putting my adventures together a level at a time, so I will run until the party is 5th. That way I can use the DMG's guidelines for encounters (3 at level -1, 3 at the party's level, and one at the level +3) plus add a quest reward and we don't worry about giving out experience. Everyone levels together whether they show up or not.

I am a little anxious about whether I will be able to get with it right away. A month long DMing break, compounded by ending on a cliffhanger, will mean that I am liable to make at least one stupid DM call. I have decided to call the end of the fight. Although Chelsea was taking a beating, the rest of the party was still doing. . okay. Jesse tends to run out of surges first, which you might imagine since he is the most frail of the melee types. We were going to have to rest anyways, so I decided that trying to pick this up after such a long gap would be a stretch. The party will start with an extended rest, and move on from there.

I also am moving to make a change about my stupid, stupid DM mistake from last session. Someone asked if we could keep our same boat and crew from the last adventure, and the waterfall made me say that no, we couldn't. A classic example of saying no when I should have said yes, and for no real reason other than it was seemingly impossible. This in a world filled with magic. I have since thought of a half dozen or so good reasons why the boat and the crew could have come, and I am going to bring em along. Why not, right? Building up cool NPC's is part of what makes DMing enjoyable.

So. . .I *will* be getting back on it. If there is anyone that was following along. I don't get much traffic but I do get some. Probably my mom or something. Hi mom!